PROPOSALS to transform Scarborough’s Raincliffe Woods by creating a social enterprise came under the spotlight at a public meeting.
The plan, being put forward by John Bradley of the Friends of Raincliffe Woods, could see developments in the wood such as an education centre, nature trails and a wider programme of events.
The meeting, held at Yorkshire Coast College’s business centre, was organised to gauge public interest and give people the chance to find out more and ask questions.
Mr Bradley said: “For Raincliffe to move anywhere, we need to look at what we’re going to do with it and how we’re going to do it.
“There’s a lot more that can be done up there and we’d like to take it forward with your help.”
Also speaking at the meeting was social enterprise adviser David Hassall, who has been working with Mr Bradley on a proposal for the woods.
He explained that a social enterprise - run by the community with profits being reinvested into the enterprise - could be a way of looking after the wooland long-term.
Mr Hassall also introduced Nigel Lowthrop, who runs a successful social enterprise at Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire.
Mr Lowthrop explained that after setting up a social enterprise in 2002, the wood now employs 30 people and tunred over £1.19 million last year.
It made £1 million profit in its first eight years, which has all been reinvested back into the enterprise.
Hill Holt Wood has a community hall, training centre, family walks and a cafe, among other facilities.
Flora and fauna is also thriving thanks to careful management of the woodland.
Mr Lowthrop said: “There is a real opportunity here in Scarborough. It can be about education, jobs and training, as well as the woodland.
“The woodland is just the hook you hang it on.”
Members of the public asked a number of questions, with some asking why something like this is needed at all.
Mr Hassall explained that Scarborough Council, who owns the woodland, has a limited budget in terms of managing the woodland long-term.
This was backed up by the council’s countryside officer, Alan Tomlinson, who said: “We don’t have the resources to manage the woods as they should be. We never have had.”
He explained that the Woodland Trust had approached the council about removing 20 per cent of the conifers, in a bid to gradually return the woodland to a more native state.
However, Mr Tomlinson said this work and the idea for a social enterprise need not be mutually exclusive and could work “hand in hand”.
Mr Hassall expained that the first step is for people to get in touch if they are interested and have skills in woodland management, business, finance, marketing or education and training.